By Adam Sisson
Crop scouting allows farmers to monitor the growth of their crops and address any issues that arise during the growing season.
“Crop scouting is foundational to making in-season management decisions,” said Adam Sisson, extension specialist for the Integrated Pest Management program at Iowa State University. “If you don’t know what you are attempting to manage, it can easily lead to mismanagement or spending money that could otherwise have been saved. Identification is always the first step to proper management.”
Getting into the field on a regular basis is the first step to scouting.
“Start by getting a good big picture of the field to see if there are any large problem areas,” Sisson said. “But don’t stop there. Walk into the field and get a good representative sample. Look at individual plants to determine their condition. Also, have a good idea of what an ideal field should look like at the time as it helps you know if something has gone wrong.”
Sisson also recommends scouting as often as possible, focusing on insects, weeds, disorders and diseases that are affecting that year’s crop. But while the focus of scouting is on the current crop, taking past practices into account as well can be helpful for a proper diagnosis of issues.
“If you come across a problem, there are pieces of information from previous growing seasons that can be useful in determining what caused the issue,” Sisson said. “Herbicides from past years can carry over from season to season. Also if this is the second or third consecutive year the same crop has been planted in that field there may be diseases from the past that remain in the crop residue.”
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has a series of resources designed to help farmers scout their crops for potential issues to be managed.
- Corn and Soybean Field Guide (IPM 1): This publication combines the previously separate Corn Field Guide and Soybean Field guide into a single volume. It provides tools for identifying insects, diseases and disorders of corn and soybean in the Midwest.
- Corn and Soybean Field Guide Web Book (IPM 81): The web book takes the information from IPM 1 and moves it to an online medium complete with videos, slide shows, interactive graphs, simulations and virtual quizzes.
- Corn Diseases (IPM 5): An updated version of this pub will be available by Sept. 1, providing information on how to identify corn diseases and provide general recommendations for disease management.
- Weed Identification Field Guide (IPM 3): This is a revised and expanded pocket-sized guide for farmers and agronomists to use for weed identification in Iowa corn and soybean fields.
- Speed Scouting for Soybean Aphid (CSI 15): A tool for growers to monitor soybean aphid populations in their fields by using a speed scouting technique. The publication provides instructions on speed scouting and guidelines for recording soybean aphid sightings in the field.
- Fungicide Classification (IPM 80): Repeated use of fungicides with the same mode of action can result in the selection of fungicide-resistant strains of plant pathogens. This publication (in poster format) divides fungicides into six modes of action to provide for greater diversity in the fungicides used.